HUMILITY is not a popular virtue, for it is not easy to be humble. That is why so few persons, comparatively speaking, are truly humble. Oh, there are ever so many who imagine they are humble. And so they appear, as long as everything goes their way. But let them be crossed, or criticized, or faced with a frustrating situation and, Bang! there is an explosion. Then where is their humility?
Even a retiring person with strong feelings of inferiority may not be humble, though he may seem to be so to those about him. His lowly feelings may be due to fear of what others may think.
But why endeavor to be humble when it does not come easy, when so few persons are truly humble? Because of what God’s Word, the Bible, has to say about it: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” Can we afford to be opposed by God? “We are not stronger than he is, are we?” Do we not need his favor, his undeserved kindness? We certainly do!—1 Pet. 5:5; 1 Cor. 10:22.
Since cultivating humility is to our interest, what will help us to be humble? Love. Yes, humility goes with love, so much so, in fact, that humility might be said to be love’s complement.
No one less than the Creator, Jehovah God himself, demonstrates this principle for us. His Word tells us, “God is love.” Does that mean that God is also humble? It most certainly does. Compared with Him, men are as but grasshoppers and entire nations as but the fine dust on a pair of balances or as a drop of water that falls from a bucket. Being so highly exalted, so far above this earth and its inhabitants, it takes humility on God’s part just to notice earth and man: “Who is like Jehovah our God, him who is making his dwelling on high? He is condescending [humbleth himself, AS] to look on heaven and earth, raising up the lowly one from the very dust.”—1 John 4:8; Ps. 113:5-7; Isa. 40:15-23.
What humility God showed in his dealings with the nation of Israel! How they tried him time and again by their rebellion, their blasphemies and their idolatries! Yet he kept pleading with them for their own good. It takes humility to plead, especially when you are able to resort to force and when what you are doing is solely for the other’s good. Yes, God pleaded with them: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die, O house of Israel?”—Ezek. 33:11; 2 Chron. 36:15, 16.
That love makes for humility, that humility goes with love, we have also demonstrated for us in the example set by Jesus Christ, “who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” What caused him to take this humble course? He himself tells us: “I love the Father.” “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”—Phil. 2:6-8; John 14:31; 15:13.
In fact, Jesus’ entire earthly ministry was marked by love’s humility. Did it not take humility to put up with the abuse that the religious leaders of his day heaped upon him? Did it not take humility to continue instructing his disciples in spite of their many frailties and misunderstandings? He was a living demonstration of humility and he also preached humility, as when he took a little child and set it in their midst as an example, as when he told of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector that went up to the temple to pray, and as when he washed the feet of his disciples.—Matt. 18:1-4; Luke 18:9-14; John 13:1-17.
That fine imitator of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, imitated his Master also in this matter of humility. He humbly ‘became all things to persons of all kinds that he might by all means save some.’ Yes, that takes humility. Paul showed the same humility in dealing with his brothers: “Did I commit a sin by humbling myself that you might be exalted?” Rather than to insist on his rights as an apostle of Jesus Christ and so burden others, he humbly expended himself on their account. Why? Because of his love for his brothers.—1 Cor. 9:1-23; 2 Cor. 11:7; 12:15; 1 Thess. 2:7-12.
That humility is love’s complement Paul’s writings clearly show: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, . . . does not become provoked.” Why does love not do all these things? Because it is not proud but humble. Because love is humble it also willingly “bears all things, . . . endures all things.”—1 Cor. 8:1; 13:4-7.
We are counseled, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” That means humbly to submit to his principles and arrangement of things. At times submitting may be irksome, but love will help us to submit humbly—love for God and love for those to whom we must submit. Love will help us to ‘be obedient to those who are taking the lead among us in the Christian congregation and to be submissive to them.’ Love will enable wives to appreciate that, ‘just as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, they are to be in subjection to their husbands.’ And love will make it easy for ‘children to be obedient to their parents in union with the Lord.’—1 Pet. 5:6; Heb. 13:17; Eph. 5:24; 6:1.
We cannot escape it. Humility is the wise course, for it wins us God’s favor, not to say anything about its making for better relations with our fellows. Love for Jehovah God and for your fellowman will help you to cultivate humility, for humility goes with love; it is love’s complement.